KATHMANDU, July 30: "Yet another surge in expectations- we Nepalis have some patience. Hope Mr. Bhattarai turns out to be the last eligible PM-aspirant in this CA. Hope we do not get to see another abir-reddened face before the next general elections gets concluded. Hope is an interesting word in our context. HOPE."
This was the status of Prashant Singh, an environmental and social media campaigner on August 29, last year when he was one of the first people to go all out to praise Baburam Bhattarai´s ascent to power in his facebook status.
However, his latest status update on July 11 shows he has virtually lost all hopes from Bhattarai.
"BRB´s ascent to power brought an unprecedented hope among Nepalis. But his acts, one after another, leading to, now, a constitutional crisis, led to a mass disappointment equally colossal."
Both these updates by the chief executive officer of the Himalayan Climate Initiative represent the general feeling among the Kathmanduites - then and now.
While talking to Republica on Sunday, Prashant seemed totally disappointed with Bhattarai with whom he had a personal rapport. Prashant made headlines when he presented Bhattarai the New Nepal Development Agenda with the hope that the latter would fulfill the aspirations of taking the country ahead.
But with the recent decision to provide state facilities to the ex-prime ministers, home ministers and justices, Bhattarai too has shown his intention to secure his future, Prashant said. “I personally had high hopes from him as he had shown sacrifice and honesty,” he said, adding, “But he himself smashed all those notions.”
Prashant still recalls how his friends made fun of him when he supported Bhattarai, even doubting his democratic credentials. “But now I´m disappointed even on personal level.”
And Prashant is not the only one who is disappointed with Bhattarai. Many people who had supported Bhattarai´s appointment as the country´s top executive on August 28 are now questioning his working style.
Though people gave him the benefit of doubt over his decisions time and again, the subsequent decision on May 27 to unilaterally dissolve the popularly-elected Constituent Assembly (CA) and his failure to build consensus among the parties to move ahead has made them believe that Bhattarai too has become yet another personality to follow the series of failing leaders since the declaration of Nepal as a republican state. People now believe he is no different than Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal who shared the country´s top position since the CA was elected in April 2008.
The people who gave all they had to overthrow the autocratic monarchy to bring about a major shift in the country´s political system in April 2006 are now questioning the same leaders who led the movement for their inept performance.
Their hopes of getting a democratic republican constitution on time have now been dashed. The failure of the country´s major political parties, including Prime Minister Bhattarai´s UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and the Madhesi parties to gift Nepalis a constitution is no doubt a major setback. But more than that, the parties´ laid-back attitude in dealing with the all-important issues of constitution-making and the peace process has further jolted the common people.
Since the unceremonious dissolution of the CA on May 27, the parties have sat together to talk only a few times and that too without any proper homework resulting in fruitless dialogues. And, despite continuous pressures from the media and expectations from the general public, the parties have not been actively involved in addressing the issues that derailed the overall process of constitution-making and peace. Without progress on these issues, the people´s hopes of entering into an era of national development remains a pipedream, a dream they have harbored for a long time.
Agreed all dreams cannot and will not be fulfilled. But that should not be an excuse for parties and their leaders from at least trying to realize those dreams. Politicians have shown little interest, if any at all, to work in the interest of the people or the country. And that has frustrated the people.
Bhaskar Dhungana, who along with two other friends changed the film-watching culture in the capital by establishing QFX cinemas, feels it is not possible to bring any semblance of order in Nepal with the current set of political leaders. “By this, I mean the current prime minister and all the political leaders, including the youth leaders,” says Dhungana.
It is the system within a political party that is flawed, thinks Dhungana. “One cannot become a leader of any political party without having made unimaginable political compromises,” he says. “I am ready to give the benefit of doubt to Prime Minister Bhattarai, but he too is the product of the same political compromises and hence leads a hugely corrupt system.”
Anil Keshari Shah, a banker, vents similar frustration as he too, like many others, had high hopes from the changes in the country and had full faith that the leaders would move the country ahead.
“But four years and several billion rupees later, the faithful have started to grow weary and are opening their eyes to find that in many a case they have been walking in circles, if not backward,” Shah commented. “We, the people, feel not only have we been led into a deep dark forest, but those who led us there seem least concerned about getting us back on the right path.”
Shah feels that time has come for the current set of politicians to do the people a favor by stepping aside. “We, the people of Nepal, have to stop sitting silently doing nothing, and get off the bus before the posse of drivers plunge us all off the cliff. The people must take the oars in their hands and get on a raft to be able to collectively row forward to build our own future.”
Apsara Chapagain, chairperson of Federation of Community Forestry Users, Nepal (FECOFUN), who leads the organization of more than 8.5 million forest users, believes that a new constitution will be in place soon. But she feels even that would not be able to institutionalize the issues related to ensuring people´s rights and improving their living standard.
Her concern is that the hopes of guaranteeing the community´s rights over the abundant natural resources are now fading. “The present crop of political leadership seems to have failed to bring the nation on track and inject fresh hopes,” she says.
With these expressions of frustration from different people, one can say that the current political parties and their leaders have failed to meet people´s expectations since the overthrow of autocratic monarch and advent of republican system. And with the CA failing to draft the constitution, the frustration level among the Kathmandu intellectuals has increased alarmingly.
The people do feel that things are not happening as expected. But, it is never too late. It is time the leaders of the country´s major political parties pull up their socks and start contemplating on what they did wrong.
The only way out now for them to restore the lost faith is to reach out to the people and get a fresh mandate and let the people decide whom they want to choose.